Reich remembered as N.D. Stockmen’s Association’s Top Hand

Farm Forum

The North Dakota Stockmen’s Association (NDSA) bestowed its highest honor, the Top Hand Award, on Jack Reich in a posthumous induction at the NDSA’s 84th Annual Convention & Trade Show in Bismarck, N.D., this evening. His wife, Mardee, accepted the award in his honor.

The Top Hand Award recognized Reich’s unselfish concern for humanity, his country and the cattle industry and his many contributions to the NDSA and the ranching industry before his untimely death in November last year. Only 19 others have received this honor in the organization’s 84-year-history.

Reich served as an NDSA District 4 director before being the organization’s vice president and later president in 2008. During his tenure as president from 2008 to 2010, the North Dakota Stockmen’s Foundation was launched and, with partners, offered more than $50,000 in disaster relief to cattle producers who were devastated by the floods and blizzards of 2009. Reich was also instrumental in establishing important international relationships for North Dakota’s beef industry, welcoming foreign investors who were considering establishing large-scale processing facilities in the region and helping facilitate trade with contacts in Kazakhstan. He lobbied for livestock industry interests in Washington, D.C., and was North Dakota’s representative on the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Board of Directors for two years.

Reich was born Sept. 15, 1969, to Delvin and Joyce (Boland) Reich with ranching and rodeo in his blood. He attended Zap public schools, graduating salutatorian in 1988. He competed as a bareback rider in high school rodeo and represented North Dakota at the National High School Rodeo Finals in Pueblo, Colo., numerous times. He was an important member of the Montana State University collegiate rodeo team as well, graduating from the university in 1993 with an animal science degree. He was a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association for several years until his passion for ranching and family outweighed the draw of the arena.

Reich married Mardee Williams of Eudora, Kan., on May 3, 1996. The couple went on to have three children – Vander; Kaydee, now 8; and Will, now 4 – and to build a reputable registered Angus herd, Reich Angus, together on a ranch south of Zap.

His life and that of 10-year-old Vander were cut short when, on Nov. 6 last year, they were involved in a head-on collision in southeastern Minnesota. The family was returning home from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where Vander had undergone surgery for a newly diagnosed cancerous brain tumor. Reich was only 43.

The tragedy bereaved the NDSA family and people across the country who had come to know the pair, maybe at a national cattlemen’s meeting or another industry event, and were likely greeted by Reich with a firm handshake and a big, mustached grin.

“Jack took the high road in whatever he did,“ said current NDSA President Jason Zahn. “He always took the time to visit and listen to people’s concerns and, in his own way, showed us all how to be better people.“

“Jack was a natural selection for the Top Hand Award,“ said Warren Zenker, who chaired the NDSA’s Honorary Recognition Committee that nominated Reich for it. “Even in his short time on earth, he made an incredible, positive mark on our association and the world, and I am pleased the NDSA was able to pay tribute to our friend in this special way.“